ERP 013: Balancing Intimacy And Autonomy In Relationship
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Recently, I wrote a four article series discussing common reasons why we experience difficulties in relationship and what we can do about it.
- Seven Reasons Why Relationship Feels So Hard Sometimes
- How To Have A More Fulfilling And Dynamic Relationship
- How To Have A More Fulfilling And Dynamic Relationship Part 2
- Part 3: How To Have A More Fulfilling And Dynamic Relationship
Point 7. We have competing internal needs.
In addressing the seventh point and what to do about it, “Gaining Awareness Of Our Internal Conflicting Needs,” I talked about the tension we often experience between needing to expand and contract in our growth process. These needs can feel incompatible at times, as it is hard to both take risks to grow and seek security at the same time.
Expanding: To feel excitement, growth, or newness. Taking risks, exploration, achieving more and reaching for new goals.
Contracting: To feel security, comfort, and safety. Integrating, soothing, recuperation, rest, and stillness.
Intimacy And Autonomy
A similar type of dynamic occurs with our need for intimacy and our need for autonomy in relationship. Both are essential to our health, growth, and over all well-being.
Intimacy: To feel close, connected, and bonded. Togetherness.
Autonomy: To feel independent. Separateness.
The amount of togetherness each individual wants will vary, just as the amount of separateness individuals will want will vary. One partner might have the preference for a lot of intimacy, whereas another partner might enjoy more autonomy. Also, the rate at which people move from being close to being separate varies. One partner may have a slow pace, wanting big chunks of together time and big chunks of alone time. Whereas, another partner might like to move between the two needs more quickly. It is unlikely that couples will match up perfectly on their preferences and pacing.
A research study that I came across years ago claimed the point of highest conflict for couples occurs during initiating closeness or separateness. It is common for people to have a range of reactions and then engage in effective and harmful behaviors, like control, blame, shame, and pressure.
Old paradigm: Thinking a great relationship is about being together and close all the time.
New paradigm: Understanding the balance between togetherness and separateness. Making space for you and your partner’s interests and personal time.
“The hard part of loving is that one has to learn so often to let go of those we love, so they can do things, so they can grow, so they can return to us with an even richer, deeper love.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Tips to consider:
- Preferences: amount & pacing
- Cues (non-verbal communication: eye contact, body language, engaged)
- Initiation style
- Full yes
- Valuing and validating your needs, balance, and health
- My self-care allows me to be more present and open to my partner
- Space and room in the relationship to hold both togetherness and separateness
- Honoring your partner’s need for alone time.
- Self-validate (nothing wrong with me)
- Communicate with awareness, tact, and skill
- Being clear, confident, and assured.
- Honoring self and partner in communication and initiation
- Being proactive
- Recognizing what works well for:
- Individual growth, balance, and health
- Relationship growth, balance, and health
- New connection together
If you have a topic that you would like me to cover in an episode, please leave me a voice message, by clicking on the “Ask Dr. Jessica Higgins” button here. Thank you so much for being interested in improving the quality of your relationship.
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